“I’ve always trusted you to do the right thing,” his grandfather said. “You used to watch out for your brother. It was almost like you were older and wiser. Because I trusted you, when Jake ran out, I cut him off without a cent, and I gave you the reins of Claiborne Energy. And, yes, you made the family a fortune. I was proud of you, boy. Back then that was all I cared about.”

“And now…”

“For nine years I’ve been estranged from Jake, and now Cici tells me he’s doing well. She says that after he ran off, he went back to school, that he’s done wonderful things in Florida and in New Orleans.”

“I tried to tell you…”

“Before I got sick, I was a stubborn fool. I didn’t want to hear about him, did I? Praise of him made me feel guilty. I know I tried to teach you to be exactly like me, but I was wrong about that, too. Don’t be like me, boy. If I’ve learned anything in this last month when I’ve felt so weak and old and useless, it’s that a grandson like Jake is worth more than any amount of money. I should never have set you on a collision course with your twin and then disinherited him for getting angry at us. And now…for Cici’s help in talking Jake into coming to my birthday party, I want to repay her kindness by letting her live in the garçonnière.”

“Did you ever think that maybe the reason Jake’s such a success now is because I saved him from Cici? From the way she’s been playing you since her return, I’m beginning to think you had her figured right back then.”

Uttering a soft, wounded cry, Cici sprang to her feet. In a halting voice she whispered, “I can’t listen to this. I’ll be right outside, Pierre. Don’t wear yourself out defending me.” Then on a whisper of wood trailing across carpet, the door closed behind her.

“It’s my fault you think she’s as trashy as Bos. But you’re wrong. She’s a very sensitive woman with a great heart, and she’s made a success of her career…even if it hasn’t been all that lucrative. I want to help her, to make up just a little for what I did in the past.”

Had she been whining about money to his grandfather at a time when he’d been weak and needy? Was that what she wanted—money?

“Did it ever occur to you that maybe she’s using you to get back at me? For sleeping with her? For jilting her?”

“Cici would never do that.”

“Oh, wouldn’t she?”

Abe stalked into the office before Logan, who wondered if he wasn’t being set up, could say no more.

“If this is a bad moment…” Abe paused.

Pierre cleared his throat. “No. It’s a wonderful moment.”

After a few more seconds of silence so tense it nearly hummed, the old man continued. “I’m glad you got here this fast, Abe. Things around here are about to change. I’m tired of rest and relaxation at home. It’s time we moved forward. First, I’ll be coming into the office twice a week—starting Monday. Second, I’ll be moving into my old office. The young lady who’s waiting for me outside has hired me a driver.”

“Grandpère, do you really think you’re strong enough? It’s bad enough that Cici is using you to get back at me.”

“Third,” his stubborn grandfather continued with a frown, “I’ll want you to write up an airtight lease. On the garçonnière behind Belle Rose for the little lady in the waiting room. Miss Bellefleur is a long-time family friend. Really, she’s practically a granddaughter. She’ll be wanting a twelve-month lease.”

“Twelve months? You can’t be serious, Grandpère.”

Again his grandfather ignored him.

“You see, Abe, she’s writing a book with the working title, Lords of the Bayou.”

Logan stared gloomily at his polished desk. No doubt she’d slam him as the environmentalist’s worst nightmare. He’d have all the tree huggers picketing him again.

“The garçonnière is quiet,” Pierre continued. “She says the setting is perfect for her research, especially since I’m there to help her. She’s won all sorts of awards, so it’ll be an honor to have her, not to mention a joy to work with her. I have a library full of history books on the subject, and I can put her in contact with all the right people.”

Logan had the power to override his grandfather’s decisions, but he loved and respected the old man too much to belittle him like that.

Fortunately, the tense meeting with his grandfather, who began to fade the moment Abe left, didn’t last much longer. No sooner had Cici ushered the old man downstairs to her Miata than Hayes walked in, his excuse being a thick stack of legal documents on the Butler merger that needed his signature.

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